Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 12/31/12
After weeks of hearing how its overmatched and shouldnt be playing in a BCS bowl game, Northern Illinois gets the chance to shock its critics. The Huskies, champions of the Mid-American Conference, will face Atlantic Coast Conference champion Florida State in the Orange Bowl on New Years Day night. Northern Illinois has a new head coach in Rod Carey, who was promoted from offensive coordinator after former coach Dave Doeren took the Nc State job. The Huskies are better than most casual observers think, though they havent faced a team nearly as talented as Florida State. Top players Quarterback Jordan Lynch: This dual threat ranks first in the country in total offense (4,733 yards) and has played a part in 43 touchdowns this season. The redshirt junior has thrown for 2,962 yards and leads the Huskies with 1,771 rushing yards. (The teams next leading rusher is Leighton Settle with 453 yards.) Lynch needs 38 passing yards to become the first player in FBS history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,500 in a season. Receiver Martel Moore: The 6-2 senior is Lynchs favorite target and has playmaker ability. He had 71 catches for 1,054 yards (14.8 average). Moore has at least one touchdown reception in each of the past four games and in 10 of 13 games this season. Safety Jimmie Ward: The 5-11 junior led the Huskies in tackles (90 overall, 54 solo) and interceptions (3). DEs Alan Baxter and Sean Progar: The two play significant roles in a pass rush that has fueled the Huskies defense. Senior Baxter had 9.5 sacks, one better than fifth-year senior Progar. Strengths Lynch and the running game clearly rank as NIUs biggest strengths. Northern Illinois averaged 5.6 yards per carry (fifth in the country) and scored 44 rushing touchdowns (fourth). The Huskies averaged 250.2 rushing yards (ninth) and 40.8 points (eighth). Defensively, the Huskies have given up only 17.5 points per game. Thats very impressive, though MAC competition isnt quite that of the major conferences. The NIU pass rush accounted for 40 sacks with a loss of 261 yards. Weaknesses A team that went 12-1 didnt display a lot of weaknesses in the MAC, but that could be a different story against Florida State. The Seminoles undoubtedly will be the most athletic and most physical team NIU will face this season. The Huskies lost their opener to a subpar Iowa team and struggled in beating Kansas. An offensive line that lost starting left tackle Tyler Loos (broken leg) in the Nov. 14 victory against Toledo will need to handle a powerful Florida State front. Right tackle Ryan Brown replaced Loos, with Matt Krempel taking the right tackle spot. Krempel will be up against FSUs highly touted left end Bjoern Werner, who has 18 tackles for loss and is tied for second in the country with 13 sacks. Three keys to a Northern Illinois win Establish some sort of passing game: No surprise, the Huskies want to run the football. But to do so, Lynch must complete some passes. Florida State, which yields just 93 rushing yards per game (fifth in the nation), likely will begin by stacking the box in an attempt to shut down Lynch and the NIU running game. If Lynch & Co. run the ball, that will keep the Seminoles offense off the field, help use up the clock and perhaps wear down the Seminoles defenders, especially Werner. Put pressure on quarterback EJ Manuel: Northern Illinois defense depends on creating pressure with both a strong pass rush and timely blitzing. Manuel has shown inconsistency this season, and the Huskies likely think they can rattle the senior. Defensive ends Alan Baxter, Sean Progar, Joe Windsor and defensive tackle Ken Bishop spearhead a Huskies pass rush that produced 40 sacks. If it can get to Manuel, NIU also might be able to generate fumbles or interceptions. Multiple Seminoles turnovers certainly would enhance the Huskies chances. Tackle in space: Whether its one-on-one or the gang tackling NIU loves, the Huskies need to prevent big plays from the tall, athletic and speedy Florida State skill players. The Huskies defense can expect to see some high, jump balls thrown to tall receivers, and some quick slants to try and take advantage of speed. That especially will be the case if Florida State sees North Illinois blitzing a lot, creating some one-on-one matchups downfield.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
The 22 most iconic college football traditions
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Louisville's Lamar Jackson wins 2016 Heisman Trophy

Carmelo Anthony ‘skeptical’ of new CBA before Thursday deadline

Erik Spoelstra on sitting Hassan Whiteside: ‘This league is for competitors only’

Andrew McCutchen admits trade rumors left him ‘on edge’

Leicester City put up three goals in first 20 minutes against Manchester City

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Houston regent: Lane Kiffin ‘was not a safe hire’

Adam Jones takes a shot at Terrelle Pryor

Jeff Fisher, Les Snead deny ‘toxic’ relationship reports

‘Field of Dreams’ 24-diamond complex clears final hurdle, will build on site from film

Dorial Green-Beckham fined for wearing non-charity Yeezy cleats

Chargers GM won’t commit to Mike McCoy’s return in 2017

Winners, losers and what is still pending from baseball's 2016 Winter Meetings

The best (and worst) times athletes hosted 'SNL'

Why UCLA's Lonzo Ball is the most interesting player in college hoops

The NBA goes courtside to curbside: Drinks and rides for discerning fans

Five teams on upset alert in NFL Week 14

CFB Crash Course, Graduation: Final grades and awards

NHL All-Star Game fans are in search of another John Scott

Box Score 12/9: Carey Price has had enough of your nonsense

MLB Winter Meetings, Day 4: News, notes and rumors

Matt Ryan is now Mr. Pick-Two

Ten most significant developments of the NBA season

Sporting life: Gifts for the fan who is always on point

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Winners, losers and what is still pending from the 2016 Winter Meetings

Why UCLA's Lonzo Ball is the most interesting player in college hoops

The NBA goes courtside to curbside: Drinks and rides for discerning fans

CFB Crash Course, Graduation: Final grades and awards

The five best (and worst) times athletes hosted 'SNL'

NHL All-Star Game fans are in search of another John Scott

Sporting life: Gifts for the fan who is always on point

Matt Ryan is now Mr. Pick-Two

MLB Winter Meetings, Day 4: News, notes and rumors

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker